Sunday, May 29, 2011

Heading west again

We've had an incredible time here in the Marquesas, but it's time for us to head further west. We'll be setting sail this afternoon for Makemo, in the Tuamotus. It's a 500 mile trip, so if we get good wind, we should arrive in about 4 days. The internet is still unbearably slow and difficult to find- so I apologize for the lack of content and photos on our blog. We're thinking of all our friends and family and promise to sit down and write all about our adventures next time we can get a truly fast connection.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Anaho Bay: Part II

Anaho Bay is pretty much my new favorite place on the planet. This anchorage is comically still compared to most of what we've seen thus far, there are no bugs, the wind is gentle, the water is tropical-blue and clear enough to see our anchor easily and the abundance of the land is wonderful (yesterday's hike yielded some pretty delicious mango treats. I can't believe food this good just... grows on trees!). I'm still awed by the abrupt rise of these volcanic cliffs, and the excitement we felt at seeing green when we made landfall a few weeks ago hasn't yet worn off. We'll be here for another few days, but i already feel like I'll have to tear myself away when we're ready to leave.

We've settled into pretty serious relax mode at this point. I think the key we've discovered is to see a few places well rather than try to see a little of a large number of destinations. That allows us to really feel present where we are.

For three of the last four days, we've shared this anchorage with piko, whatcha gonna do and no one else. Having the three boats anchored in a rough triangle, all swimming distance apart has been really fun. We've had dinner together, hiked together, snorkeled together and just had the chance to chill and hang out. I've always wanted to live somewhere where I had a strong sense of community, and being able to swim through 80 degree clear water to your friend's boat is about as good it gets.

I just got down below deck from sitting in the hammock with amanda watching the moon rise over this little bay we're in. it seems so rare to have things be this... comfortable. Still boat, warm breeze, beautiful night, good dinner... I'm grateful for it all as it comes, and happy that i feel so in touch with the gratitude.

-Editor's Note
The last two posts were adapted from emails Krister and Amanda sent over HF. In cleaning them up for publication I realize I made a mistake. Krister typed the originals entirely in lowercase, which I up-cased. Now that I look at it the lower case really reinforced the "relax mode" vibe that Krister was talking about. You'll just have to imagine a life where hitting shift just doesn't seem strictly necessary and I'll try to be less uptight next time :)

Baie de Taioa

We're currently anchored in a beautiful bay called Baie de Taioa (better known to cruisers as daniel's bay for a friendly guy who used to live on the beach here). it's absolutely stunning - we've run out of superlatives to describe the topography. We're surrounded by 1600' cliffs, and it feels like we're anchored in some mystical pool at the bottom of the grand canyon. Getting up and having breakfast on deck is in itself a wonder - just to look around and see this place.

Amanda pointed out to me when we came in that we know people who have been to Tahiti, know people who have been to Fiji, New Zealand, etc., but NO ONE goes to the Marquesas unless they're on a boat. It's pretty magic to be in a place that's this remote and in many ways (despite a bay full of cruising boats and french flags flying everywhere) feels untouched.

We walked a few miles inland today to see the highest waterfall in french polynesia and the third highest waterfall in the world (it was pointed out that there is perhaps more than one waterfall touted as third highest worldwide - a dubious designation, but anyway...). The hike took us up a river valley (of course), and i was again reminded of the canyon country, minus the desert. Fruit litters the ground here - grapefruit (that tastes like a three way cross between the grapefruit you're thinking of, a lime and an orange. The most delicious citrus fruit i've ever tasted), mango, breadfruit, starfruit, passion fruit and guava that we've discovered so far. There are no poisionous snakes, or spiders on any of the marquesan islands, and the water is so pure that with only one exception, jerry cans can be filled from the streams without treatment. It's the most verdent place i've ever seen.

The waterfall was unfortunately something of a disappointment. Viewed from a mile or so distant on the trail, it's breathtaking, but up close, 90% of the falls are obscured. 30 feet of visible falls felt a little anticlimatic. Not to be deterred, we swam in freshwater for the first time in months, and lamented our failure to bring along soap. Munching on mangos as we walked back, it was hard to feel like the day had been anything other than a spectacular success, even if the falls are best viewed from a distance.

Wwe'll be here for another day or two - long enough for amanda to clean the fridge and for me to check a squeak i don't like on the steering linkage. Then i think we'll head to Anaho Bay where a surf break is rumored (though not shown ANYWHERE on the internet - unheard of in the surfing world these days... i'm excited), and then to Ua Puo, the next island south.

After that, it's on to the Tuomotus which sound really cool to me. They're all atolls, which promises for exciting sailing into the inlets, calm anchorages, excellent water visibility (good snorkeling), and the chance of surf on the outside shores. The weather patterns differ there, so the heavy clouds we have almost constantly here should lift, and we'll have sunshine which translates to solar which translates to the fridge being on which translates to a cold beer (finally). I'm excited to get there, but am practicing my zen and trying to appreciate the maginficence of where we are in the here and now.

I keep imagining that i could have lived a life where i didn't do this, and it freaks me out.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

La Cruz to Taiohae: The Crossing

Land Ho! Wait I'm getting ahead of myself...

From my handwritten journal (additional comments in parenthesis), here's how we passed the days away on Britannia sailing across the expansive Pacific.

Day 1
Had a nice morning- tea and banana bread. Tao (Chris and Shawn) stopped by to see us one last time before we left- and to swap pictures and recipes. Then before we knew it, Piko was sailing by and i was time to go. Krister hopped out of the water- he'd been cleaning the bottom- and went straight to pulling up the anchor- while I hoisted the mainsail. It was like nothing. Just another sail to the next destination. HA
We've been sailing fast- 7.5 knots. Caught up with Piko before leaving the bay- even keeping pace with Dilligaf. All good- but the seas are mixed up and we've got 15-25 knot wind we're bashing into... I didn't feel so great the first few hours. Maybe I just let myself get too tired and hungry- plus the previous nights' sleep weren't too good either. So I made lentils and rice- all in one pot because the only the pressure cooker was big enough that it wouldn't spill in the hectic movement (even with the gimbaled stove). Also used some seawater for cooking- it turned out great! Just what I needed- and Krister too. He's still tired and a bit sick with head cold. I feel bad for him- not a great way to start such a big trip. Oh and our auto- helm went out- belt broke- so he swapped them out (we had a spare), but now we have no back-up other than hand steering... (Yikes)

Day 2
Holy shit- are we really doing this?! There's a whole lot of water out here, a lot of miles- distance to go until we can get off the boat... It's night watch time, damp, wet, chilly, clammy... Glad to have some NPR pod casts (thank you Piko!)to listen to... too wet and uncomfortable to read... but all's getting better. Hope to be in the trades or smoother water soon.

Day 3
Any comments? Hard to tell what day it is when it's all broken-up by blurry patches of sleepiness and naps. Had a flying fish jump into the cockpit last night- woke Krister up to see it and to throw it overboard. Also found a little squid under our starboard jack-line- dead and sticky. No boats on the horizon- just lots of blue water (we wouldn't see another boat for over 2000 miles/ 18 days- and it would be Piko, the first and last boat we saw on the crossing)- time and seas expanding before us. Wind is shifting, slacking- making our sails loudly bang. Just hope there's enough wind to keep us moving and quiet tonight.

Day 4
Changed into dry pants- tired of all the wet- just then our spinnaker came down with a gust, spraying me- and drenching me in the process of retreval. Oh well! Surrounded by water, dowsed, drenched, and damp. Hope to get the head (of the sail) attached to a different swivel- get the spinnaker back into action and try to keep up with the pack- and if not that, at least quicken our passage.
Number of continuous hours of sleep are increasing- about 3 1/2 now- hoping for 4+ tonight. Krister seems just about over his cold- seas have flattened, all's well- still sailing along...

Still day 4
Man it's hot! Maybe it's because he wind isn't so strong now, but I'm hanging out, sweating in my undies :) The water is so blue! Not mush swell now- the boat have gotten quieter- Krister and I had something to do with it. Now if the spinnaker would stop flapping! Still got some puffy clouds hanging about-but doesn't look like rain anymore- wonder if/when we'll get some catchment? (don't worry it's coming soon) Reading Harry Potter, too bad we don't have the rest of the books. (Got them on Kindle now!)
That sun is burning!

Day 5
Got some good sleep and cleaned up the boat a bit...
Last night a pod of dolphins came to visit as sunset. I was squealing with delight- wonder what they thought of the noises... It was spectacular to see them- 100's breaching and jumping in the inky pink black water.
Hot and sunny again today- thought we might get some rain- a squall last night so I put the hand-helds and PC in the oven. That's weird, but heard it's what you're supposed to do- wonder if somebody just made that up as a joke...

Day 6
Didn't sleep much last night- not sure why. Kinda spacey today- maybe I'll be albe to sleep when Krister gets up. I've been pretty lazy really- should start learning some French, clean-up. wash myself- my hair is a greasy mess. It's just hard to care that much and to go through the hassle- don't feel like getting water and salty- just going to get dirty again- and nobody's here to see me or care anyway... Maybe Krister cares... Yeah yeah- I'll get to it sooner or later... I know I should...

Day 7
A week. Krister says it's not- only just 6 days and 12 hours- makes a difference he days- to how many miles we've travel. I say- this isn't about that... what is it about? Life, daily activities and routine... Like I finally took a "shower" I was so dirty and oily that my used water left a blotch in the clear blue Pacific Ocean LOL! Too bad I didn't feel much cleaner. Saltwater leaves you kinda sticky and the humidity and heat erase any kind of clean feeling (almost immediately)
Had our first bit of precipitation since leaving on the trip- in January.
I'm tired of too much sweet sugary food... and oily salty food too. Even he apples taste too sweet- and all the food in the "fridge" smells moldy- whether it is or not. (I call it a fridge, but we don't usually have enough solar power to run it while underway, so it's often times hotter in there than it is outside.)
Every once in a while the boom bangs loudly- and I clench my stomach- not too relaxing. Tired from laying around- can't sleep, but always feel out of it and sleepy.
Wonder where everyone is. Waiting for check-in (on the Puddle Jump SSB radio net)- nice to talk to the other boats- we haven't seen any in days...

Day 8
Hot and humid- at least the solar panel has something to work with today. Too many stinky smells on board- the head, the holding tank, the galley sink, the fridge... the crew. Krister's asleep- I'm going to read....

Cleaned out the fridge- wiped everything down- bleach in the drain- guess what?! Still smells...

Day 9
We gybed the spinnaker- 2 squalls hit too- light pelting sprinkles of H2O. Didn't rig the catchment yet- but we should...
So now we're sailing to our way point- on a port tack- which means the boat is heeled in the opposite direction. No big deal, but I went to lay down in the quarter berth and I could feel the water rushing past, hear the vibrations, gurgling water noises- felt amazing and powerful. So glad Brittnay's taking care of us! Thank God! All's well.

Day 10
Spent yesterday on the edge of the ITCZ (that's the doldrums, a place of no wind and sudden bursts of rain and wind storms)- lost track of how many sail changes... 10? and course changes... but I know I got a bit of a work out. Also had our first thunder and lightening of the trip- scary! Everything slippery with freshwater- sky lighting-up- and all I can think is that Krister is hugging a giant lightening rod- trying to douse the kite and raise the main.... on the radar the storm was 3 miles from us- we counted seconds between flashes of light and booming, crackling sounds of thunder, Not sure if sound carries faster over the water- we couldn't remember if a second= one mile or if you have to multiply the seconds by something... 3? Anyway, we're bother exhausted by the night's escapades- we'll probably sleep the day away.

Also yesterday: Made some white russians- had to; the milk was going bad- and thought about Becky and her Cafe Rica's... sometimes for breakfast. Then went up the mast to scope out the expanse of the Pacific- but chickened out just above the radar dome.

Day 10 3/4
Night watch. Agh! Not enjoying them like I did when we were along the coast. It's damp- even though the air is warm, I feel cold. Things are moldy and musty- like the cockpit blanket- starting to think it's irritating my skin and maybe more.
I'm 33- and still scared when it's dark. I'm worried about unseen squalls- the spinnaker coming down again, or something solid and unlit in the water.
And its starting to get lonely. I'm in need of a bit of comfort- home- security- a safe place to rest. I haven't properly slept in a while- depending on how you define it- maybe 2 days, maybe since we've been at sea, since we started the trip, since we moved onto the boat, since we shared that tiny bed in that tiny room in that tiny apartment....
This is part of being on an expedition right? Food cravings, wanting what you can't have- that's very human... Feeling so ill at ease- can't wait for my watch to be over- for morning's light... for land- so the fun part of our adventure can start.
The ocean doesn't have a smell out here- but tonight something stinks... I left the fridge open to cool off a bit.

Day 11
Lots of fun doing "blue" jobs today!... on the bow raising the spinnaker, lubing the gooseneck, checking for chafe... of course I still made breakfast and dinner. Kinda a two meal a day crew going on- read: we have too many snacks and it's just too much work to cook and do dishes. Also showered today- my hair won't dry- don't want to pull it up until it does- just don't need another moldy thing on this boat, especially not my hair.
Still no sleep- but musta hit a second wind or breaking point 'cuz I feel fine.
The squall's rain has cleaned the rigging and canvas some (from our blow in Turtle Bay so long ago)
ps. Love how euphoric Krister gets when the sailing is good...

Night 11
Night watch again! It's like that movie Ground Hog's Day- it just keeps happening over and over... Krister thinks maybe we're 1/2 way. I hope so- not that this is hard, but the last few days I've started to feel like I'm burying an anxiety attack. I've been pushing certain thoughts away and out of my head. Things like how deep the ocean is, how we're really our here on our own- if one of us falls overboard we're dead- scary stuff- and it's buried in there but keeping me from sleeping. Insomnia. Tired but can't sleep. although I should feel way more, much more tired than I feel now. I don't remember sleeping today or yesterday- ok I guess I slept 1 1/2 hours last night but this is ridiculous. Maybe I only think that I'm laying there awake- maybe I'm dreaming that I'm awake- but I don't think so because I've never had such boring dreams as these Pacific crossing days. Time screams by and it seems like we're standing in place. The scenery sure looks the same. Daily tasks just take so long. Cooking, dishes, picking up, boat maintenance...
I got a bit of a sunburn today- first one on the trip. I was so good about putting on sunblock- like SPF 50!- in Mexico, but now I don't think of it much- or I don't feel like getting all greasy, or just think I'm not in the sun- but really I am.
Back to the anxiety... Krister's been taking really long first watches so I can get more sleep. I feel badly that I've just been laying there awake. If he can sleep, he should, besides it's not fair that my watches are shorter.
Wish I could stop worrying something awful was going to happen to us. We watched a couple "Friends" episodes today- nice comfort time- maybe I need to watch more of them- terrible to waste your life watching re-runs- especially on such an expedition/adventure. Krister and I always make fun of people with TV satellite dishes on their boats, saying "Why sail around the world if you're just going to stay below deck and watch TV?!" But here I am, wanting those comforts.
I read Krister some (all) of what I've written on our trip so far. He said "Hon, you're a good writer," now I'm self- conscious and can't write- LOL
We had a chance to hang out and talk a while today- that was nice. Funny to always be with someone, but too busy to talk. It's a shame really.
So back to my constant state of near- terror. It's like the first day of school nerves. My stomach is clenched, and even when I'm not thinking of it, I'm thinking of it.
Shit- wind shift. and dark skies. Squall?
Yes. 10 miles of the port bow- now I have to wait... wondering how bad it will be... just rain? too much wind? lightening? I wonder, if quitting were an option, would I? It's irrelevant. It's faster to keep going than it is to turn around. And there's no airport around here, so I can't just leave. Well perseverance.... Like I said, it's about "personal growth." Which means being uncomfortable in all kinds of ways.
I'm lost- directionally challenged. If our instruments went out, I'd really have some problems.
Last night, or maybe the night before?, two light wind squalls passed on my watch- a third came and I figured, fine. Another light wind and sprinkling... Shit, it started sprinkling just as I wrote that- hold on

(I never finished that story because it started raining and gusting. So what happened was that the 3rd squall did have a strong wind element. We were on our side, winch in the water before I could blow the clew sheet. The spinnaker scooped up a bunch of water, which spun us around. And as a torrent of rain hit the boat and foul words flew out of my mouth, Krister bounded up the companion way, knowing things were not grooving anymore. We actually did quite well. I came to my senses quick enough, Krister donned his life jacket, clipped in and doused the kite, while I worked on getting the main up. Then we waited out the squall below deck and I finished my watch.)

Day 12
I started to write earlier today but was interrupted by several squalls- lots of rain catchment. Oooh Ahhh fresh water "shower." My hair finally feels silky again.
So yeah - lots of hot sun, and cool squalls. There's a tear in the spinnaker clew that I'm fixing- good to have a project to do while on watch. And the webbing on the mainsail clew slide popped too. So that's on the repair list. Krister did get the head rebuilt today. Hope that means easier pumping and no more back flow. He also installed our new inverter while on watch last night- so I guess we've been busy :)
Finally got some sleep on my first of period of the night. I woke disoriented- and in a bit of a panic. Was I supposed to be on watch!? Like when yuo think you're supposed to be at school or work on the weekend of day off.Anyway, I was sleeping so well because the boat motion is so smooth! Like the bay- flat. And the wind's shifted to the SE! That could mean that we've made it through the ITCZ- AKA squall-landia! That would be awesome! Could you tell it's been stressing me out? It was a good day- I love productive hassle free days!

Dawn, Day 13
Had a Peter Pan moment... the sun rising, pink behind the purple clouds, under the brightest star... straight on 'til morning. We'll be to Neverland soon!
The seas are perfect- oh did I say there were dolhins too!? Sun's not even up yet and it's been a good day :)
A day of baking... made sticky buns. Had pizza and cold beer for lunch. Super sunny and calm- all in all a pretty good day.

Day 14
It's my day off! Just laid around in the sun reading. Krister slept, Brittnay behaved well- no sail or course changes- just cruising.
I played and watched harmonica videos, snacked a lot and now there's nothing left to do until the nt- in an hour and 1/2. Not bored, just doing nothing :)
The water is clearer now; still very blue, puffy fair weather clouds, but mostly sun. Nice!

Day 15
Almost to the equator! We'll be shellbacks by tomorrow afternoon. It signals the last section of the passage. Krister and I vacillate between eagerness to arrive; to explore the islands, to see friends again, and to totally relax, snuggle and sleep together again. And another part of us that's not ready for the crossing to be over. There's so much to do- harmonica, French, read- Krister to play more guitar. The days run together- yet I haven't had enough. The trip is passing by too quickly... and we don't know what to do when it's over... where to go?

(We "dressed-up" and got silly at our equator crossing party)

Easter Sunday Day 17
Read the Last Supper and Crucifixion out loud to commemorate the day.

Night watch
I think I'm getting sick. Don't know how that's possible- no germs but our own out here, and nothing's changed or new in 3 weeks. But all the same, there's a small swollen gland, hurting, like a pebble in my neck/throat. I can't get comfortable. It's been raining and sprinkling on and off all night. The cushions are soaked. I feel like I'm on an airplane- knees pulled up to my chest, neck sore, nodding off- wanting to sleep, then snapping awake.

(For those of you who didn't catch it, there's a day missing here. We didn't realize this error until after we'd been anchored almost 36 hours. We thought the passage took us 21 days, it was really only 20)

Day 18
Swollen gland. Slept most of the day. Didn't cook- just cereal and soup. Rain and wind lasted 2+ hours last night. Everything-even this notebook, is soaked. Started sewing feather bed pad into a triangle for the v-berth.

Day 19
Cloudy day which means we might have some energy problems later. Hope he sun can burn through- dry us off too. The auto-helm is squeaking, If it can just last until we make landfall... what a blessing i would be! Can't imagine hand steering through the night- which are getting darker as he moon wanes. I'm feeling too tired and out of it- just hanging in there you know.
Today was just how I thought the crossing would be... Iridescent blue clear water, 7.5 knots

Day 20
Beautiful monotony . Twinkling stars, the southern cross, glorious daybreak, salmon clouds of dawn. The trillion colors of blue through eons of water churning, spiting white, joyously jumping to our deck. Once intriguing, engaging, hypnotic, now all falls silent- disregarded natural wonders occurring right next to us- Letting each drop unseen back into the ocean, unheard for lack of attention, disappear into the distance. The lost treasure of the now, the here, the present, only just to sleep and toil amid it all. I'm simply feeling guilty for my lack of appreciation of all this amazing...

Still day 20
The boat that I thought was huge the day we motored into our slip for the first time has shrunk. As if the salty water of the Pacific has constrained her- Brittnay is now a small cube of living space. I no longer go out on the foredeck because it's a rule that we clip in- which means putting on a life jacket in this sweaty hotness. And still worrying about falling overboard... the v-berth is all but impossible to navigate with the surf boards and piles of stuff stored there. We live in the small space surrounding the companionway... the galley, nav station, quarter berth, and cockpit. All's cluttered with the necessities- things that make this passage possible, bearable and comfortable.

Day 21
Getting so close now- 150 Nmiles away from Nuka Hiva! So I'm cleaning up below deck- hope to have it cozy and comfy so that we just set the anchor and relax.
Things are swinging around- sliding and colliding- seas are steep and confused. Krister and I were thinking a mounted video camera would be hilarious- to see us walking around below deck, worse than a bunch of drunks :)
Okay, back to cleaning house (boat)!

(At dawn I came on deck- land ho! In the grey pinks of morning, the dark shape of Nuka Hiva beckoned us. Then we sighted the first boat on our starboard side, their sail- like the wing of a dove, pure white against the dark purple clouds of an impending squall. It was Piko! Neither of us could make the anchorage before the rain hit, but it allowed us to clean ourselves up a before entering the bay. We turned the engine over- motoring for the first time since La Cruz.)
The land smells green and everything is so lovely. Steep peaks and shadowed valleys- lush green with trails of clouds clinging to the edges, sunk in to the folds of land. White streaks of waterfalls, the air thick with moisture.
Had a great time re-uniting with friends- jubilation! Opened a bottle of Dom Perignon- delicious! Baked blueberry scones, served with my first cup of coffee since Mexico.

(Land fall at dawn!)

(We didn't go to shore until the next day- then we found out that it was a day earlier than we thought. Pretty funny really. Things have been everything I thought they could be! Wonderful! The locals are very helpful and nice, even though I can't understand what they're saying. The land is exotic, lush, and fragrant. It's very isolated- supplies come once a month from Papeete, Tahiti and are extremely expensive. So glad we over provisioned before leaving Mexico. The internet connections are all through satellite, so it's difficult to post photos, but we'll try soon. OH man this is starting to get good!)